Chances are the next time you encounter a Hephzibah police officer, they’ll have an extra set of eyes strapped to their chest.
No, the department isn’t experimenting with cyborgs. It’s just the latest to receive body-worn cameras that officials say could cut down on abuses from officers and citizens alike.
“Not only does it help us gather evidence and protect us from complaints, it also lets the officer know they are being recorded,” said Hephzibah Police Chief Dwayne Flowers. “It helps to remind them to be professional at all times.”
On Tuesday, the department received eight Taser AXON body cameras – valued at $2,619.53 – from the Deputy J.D. Paugh Memorial Foundation.
The cameras will be put to use as early as this weekend, Flowers said, and will allow the department coverage beyond dashboard cameras on some cruisers.
“Every call imaginable can be recorded as the officer experiences from their perspective,” said Michael Cardenaz, co-founder of the Deputy J.D. Paugh Memorial Foundation. “It’s recording everything the officer hears and sees, and probably some of the things he doesn’t.”
The cameras, which clip to the front of police uniforms, can transmit video in real-time to mobile devices or an in-car hard drive. Officers may also load video by attaching the cameras to a computer via a USB cable.
And, with the exception of a small red indicator light on the back of the device, it’s virtually impossible to tell the camera is recording.
The donation is the most recent for the foundation that was started to honor Paugh, who was killed in the line of duty in 2011. It has previously purchased radios for the Harlem Police Department and a $5,070 accident recreation software program for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
With a budget as limited as the one the Hephzibah Police Department operates on, Flowers said, it might not have been able to afford the units.
“Budgets are tight,” he said. “Federal grant money is getting to be less and less every year. This helps free up other things.”
Officers in Hephzibah aren’t the only local police equipped with body cameras. The Waynesboro Police Department and Georgia Regents University Department of Public Safety have used the technology for years.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has also shown interest in equipping officers with cameras, and began testing options last August.